My son has been fascinated by dandelion seed heads around the garden (we have s lot of dandelions, weeding hasn't been a big feature of the last few years of using our garden!) and was surprised when I explained that they were part of the life cycle of a dandelion flower.  We checked that the plants with yellow flowers and the plants with the seed heads had the same leaves!  I thought it would be fun to look at the seeds close up to see how they float in the air and disperse, so new dandelion plants grow far away from the original.

Parts of dandelions laid out on a tray

We have a big magnifying glass that the small boy likes to look at things with, so I set him up with a flower head, seed head and leaf on a tray so he could look at them and take them apart as he wished.  He wasn't interested to start with, but when I told him the seeds had little parachutes, he was keener to look.

Seeds and their parachutes

He seemed impressed when he took a closer look and spent a couple of minutes inspecting it. Then he decided to blow on the seed head and the seeds blew everywhere! A few stayed clinging onto the stalk and he had a closer look at these then blew them individually.

Magnifying glass helps him take a closer look

We talked a bit about the life cycle, where the plant flowers and is pollinated by a bee.  He's interested in bees, which seem to visit our dandelions a lot, but I didn't really explain what the pollen is and why the bee is required.  We talked about how the dandelion flower then turns into a seed head with lots of seeds all attached to their own parachute so they can spread around in the wind, and then, when in soil grow into more dandelions.  We've talked previously about the life cycle of frogs, butterflies and birds and about the parts of plants that we eat, but we hadn't talked about the life cycle of a specific plant and he had lots of questions.

The bright yellow flowers are easy to spot

He wasn't really interested in taking a closer look at the shape of the leaves to start with, but when I explained that the flower was actually named because they look a bit like lion's teeth (dent de lion in French) he had a look with his magnifying glass.  He then identified a few leaves without any flowers in the lawn and asked whether they would have any flowers soon, so we had a look for flower buds, and found one.

Since then he's delighted in bringing me dandelion flowers picked from around the garden as 'beautiful presents' and in pulling apart the seed heads to blow little parachutes around, and has asked a couple of times for his magnifying glass to have a closer look. I don't know whether he's increasing or decreasing the number of dandelions likely to grow in our lawn next year by removing flowers and blowing seeds around, but he's having fun!